Andrew Roachford MBE, a singer and songwriter, chats with Kevin Cooper about writing new material with Mike Rutherford, who he first saw performing live, his perfect Christmas and his A Soul Christmas Evening UK Tour in December 2023.

Andrew Roachford MBE is a British singer and songwriter and was the main force behind the band Roachford, who scored their first success in 1989 with the hits Cuddly Toy and Family Man. He also has a successful solo career.

The band Roachford was formed in 1987. By 1988 the band were touring supporting acts such as Terence Trent D’Arby and The Christians. Signing a seven album recording contract with Columbia, they went on to have a string of success throughout the 1990’s, becoming Columbia’s biggest selling UK act for ten years.

Roachford released his first solo album, Heart Of The Matter in 2003. In 2010 he joined Mike + The Mechanics along with Tim Howar. The following year the album The Road was released featuring Roachford and Howar as lead vocalists, as well as the 2017 album Let Me Fly.

Roachford collaborated with Beverley Knight on a joint album, Twice In A Lifetime, released in September 2020.

He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2019 Birthday Honours for services to music.

Whilst busy rehearsing for his forthcoming tour, A Soul Christmas Evening, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Good morning, Andrew, how are you?

Hi Kevin, I’m good thanks for asking, although having said that, I’m a little tired as we had a lot of lightening coming through, during the storm. It was difficult to sleep through it.

Wasn’t it horrendous?

Yes, it was, it was like, ‘wow okay’ (laughter). It was like a Gothic horror movie (laughter).

It hit us here in Nottingham at around 3am.

We got it a little earlier, but it seemed to drag on. My parents are from the Caribbean, and they often get tropical rain, but last night, man, the heavens just opened.

The main thing is that we are all safe and well.

Exactly (laughter).

Well, before we move on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No problem, thanks for doing it. I remember that you and I have spoken many times in the past. When I first got the memo, I was like, ‘yes I know that guy, him and me have a few interviews in the bag’ so to speak (laughter).

And taking the storm last night out of the equation, just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Well, I am one of those people who believe that it is a mixture of how you are treating it and how it is treating you. I honestly believe that you have to make your own path in life so yes, at this moment in time, all is good in fact. I feel pretty blessed in many ways.

You and I last spoke on 22nd February when you were mid-tour with An Evening With Roachford. How did the tour go because when we spoke you were really enjoying it?

Oh man, the last tour, in fact, the last couple of tours that I have done have been some of my best as far as the audiences, their reaction and also the band. Everything, including the music, is just clicking into place. The last album, Twice In A Lifetime, really did help with the set and, as I said, the last two tours have most definitely been my favourite tours.

Coming right up to date, A Soul Christmas Evening with Roachford; is it something that you have always wanted to do? I know that you have done a few Christmas shows for the radio in the past but this time you are taking it out on tour.

As you rightly point out, I have previously done a Christmas radio show and I have to be totally honest with you and say that I really wasn’t sure about doing it. But then I thought that I would go along with it, and so I did Stevie Wonder’s Someday At Christmas and it worked really well, even better than I thought. A lot of my favourite artists have all made Christmas albums, with quite a few of them having a soulful context. I thought, ‘yes, that really is something that you don’t get a lot of’ and then last year I was involved in Trevor Nelson’s Soul Christmas at The Royal Albert Hall and it was that which gave me the taste for it.

How did you manage to put a set-list together as there are so many wonderful songs out there?

I know (laughter). I have been playing a few of the Christmas songs because with me and music I always look for, ‘where is the soul in this’ because that is what I want to bring out which is what I am strong at and good at so I look for songs that I can do that with. And that is how I pick the song for the set-list basically.

(Laughter) I’m so glad that you have cleared that up for me as I had visions of A Soul Christmas Evening With Roachford going on for months.

(Laughter) well let’s put it this way, no matter just how hard I try, I can’t really find much soul in Jingle Bells so I won’t be doing that (laughter). So that does narrow it down a little bit. It will just be a pick of a couple of my personal favourites, so no, it is not really going to be going on all night just doing Christmas carols or anything, it will still essentially be a Roachford gig. I will still be doing the big Roachford tunes, so it will still be essentially that type of show, but it will have that Christmas flavour and I want people to have a fun night out really.

When you were putting the set-list for the tour together, how many songs did you start with?

I know that there are a few soulful tunes that I have done before, that really do work for me, so I kind of narrowed it down. I didn’t start with a hundred tunes. There were a few where I thought ‘wow, that could be good’ and I guess that there were about twenty odd tunes which I thought were worth giving a shot, having a go at which I really did feel I could bring something to them which hopefully the audience would appreciate and enjoy.

You have briefly mentioned Stevie Wonder’s Someday At Christmas, and I have to say that I feel it is the most beautiful anti-war song ever written.

Yes, I totally agree with you. It really is a very clever song. John Lennon also managed to do that when he wrote and recorded Happy Xmas (War Is Over) which really did have another meaning and another message to it and I think that the Stevie song was also very clever in that way because it had all the feeling and all the flavour of a traditional Christmas song but there was far more to it. I personally love that song; I love the sentiment, and growing up listening to people like Stevie Wonder as a kid I always thought ‘wow, it’s great that they can put music out there that actually helps people and brings some positivity to the world’ which was always something that I wanted to do with my music.

It’s sad to say but Christmas albums now seem to be a thing of the past. Everyone loved making a Christmas album back in the day but nowadays, no one seems to be bothered with the exception of a certain Mariah Carey (laughter).

(Laughter) that’s right, Mariah just won’t let it go (laughter). There will always be someone who comes along who then reinvents it again. I have always, in the past, steered away from it funnily enough because I didn’t think that making a Christmas album was my thing. I met an old friend of mine who challenged me to write a Christmas song just for the fun of it and I found myself agreeing to the challenge because a Christmas song is something that you can have fun with. It’s rather like re-inventing the wheel (laughter). When Stevie recorded Happy Birthday, you knew that there was no one brave enough or silly enough to tackle another version of that song. So, I sat wondering if I could ever re-invent the Christmas song, so I just might get into that challenge, just for the fun of it.

There are two tracks that I always play to death at Christmas, and they are Merry Christmas Baby by Otis Redding and Santa Clause Go Straight To The Ghetto by James Brown. I think that both are absolutely brilliant.

Great choice man, brilliant but I have to be totally honest with you and admit that I only heard those songs this year. It was like a revelation to me. Obviously, back in those days, the artists made Christmas songs and when I heard the James Brown song he was singing about poverty in the ghetto, and he used the song to get his message across but still have that festive feeling and that really was quite a thing. It really is quite amazing. What was a real surprise to me was that my favourite Christmas song was Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody and when I finally got to meet Noddy Holder I was amazed as to just how big a soul music fan he is. He really does know his soul music, and I was really surprised.

I recently interviewed Deborah Bonham and she told me that her late brother John together with Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant would often sit and play Northern Soul records all afternoon.

Deborah came to one of my shows. I didn’t know her, but she was in the audience, and she walked up to the stage and said to me, “I’m Deborah Bonham” (laughter). She was there as a fan, and I have to say that I was quite impressed (laughter).

Will there be any surprises on the tour, for example, a certain Ms Knight isn’t going to turn up, is she?

(Hysterical laughter) well if I told you then it wouldn’t be a surprise would it (laughter). But, in answer to your question, yes, there are going to be a few guests turning up, but I am going to leave that as a surprise. There are definitely a few surprises in the pipeline yes (laughter).

Well, I’m hoping to come along to photograph and review the gig on Monday 4th December at The Town Hall Birmingham.

You are welcome to come along; you are a true fan, and you are a true lover of soul music as well, which really is great.

The last time that you and I spoke you said that you and Mike (Rutherford) were going to get together and write some new Mike + The Mechanics material. How is that progressing?

(Laughter) the honest answer is that we haven’t started as yet but I actually saw Mike a couple of days ago and writing new material was one of the discussions that we had. What I can say is that it is definitely going to happen, but to be perfectly honest with you it might not happen until early next year. We both have lives to live; I’m touring, and Mike is going away for a while doing his stuff, so all that I can say at this moment in time is yes, that really is going to happen. Who knows where it is going to take us and I’m not even sure that we will have enough material for a new Mechanics album (laughter). When I first met Mike, it was all about writing, but then twelve years later It became something else, and we are still doing it so who knows (laughter).

And what about a new Andrew Roachford album, any thoughts?

Most definitely; I personally think that it is about time so what I am going to be doing is experimenting with different things. I am aiming to get myself over to Nashville to do some writing and to see some of the great writers who are based out there, and I want to try something different. I think that sometimes you have to come out of your comfort zone, so I am going to spend some time out there and perhaps even go to Memphis, do some writing, and see just where that spark comes from.

What was the first record that you bought?

(Laughter) oh my lord, the first record that I bought, I can remember as a kid being a massive fan of The Jackson 5 and they had a record out called Show You The Way To Go and that was the very first record that I ever bought.

Who did you first see performing live?

The very first person who I saw performing live was actually my uncle Bill, who was the man who taught me music. I grew up watching him rehearsing with his band in the living room (laughter). However, it was a completely different story when I was old enough to go out and watch him performing one of his gigs. I was in shock, and I thought, ‘wow, so that’s what gigging is all about’ (laughter). I had another uncle who lived in Sweden, who did a gig with his band, and I saw them and that really was the icing on the cake. It was at that point that I knew that music was going to be my life.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

That’s a good one, what a great question (laughter). I am shortly going off to see a band called The National and they have a song called About Today and when I first heard it I was like ‘wow’. That is most definitely emotive and I have to say that it really did touch me. Also, I was recently in Barbados, and I heard an R&B record by Keyshia Cole, Point Of No Return, which really surprisingly hit me. I’m not a massive fan of her work but in Barbados, on the radio, her song really got me.

As we have been speaking about your forthcoming Christmas tour, what would be Andrew Roachford’s perfect Christmas?

Well, my perfect Christmas is normally spending Christmas Day here in the UK with some of the family members who are here, and then on Boxing Day I love being in Barbados and being able to spend the rest of Christmas with my mum, who lives over there, and you just have to be with mum and her cooking (laughter).

On that note Andrew, let me once again thank you for your time, it’s been delightful as usual. Good luck with the tour and I will see you, plus a few surprise guests, when you get to Birmingham.

Thanks Kevin, please make sure that you come and say hi when we get to Birmingham. You take care. Bye for now.